Aspen Times Weekly: Overexcited, overwhelmed

by Amanda Rae


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SNOOPING AROUND always leads to trouble, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, in certain instances it seems impossible to restrain oneself. That’s how I ended up ordering a three-day series of superfood meals, created by Sakara Life in New York City and sent to my doorstep in Aspen: I spied a massive box on a neighbor’s doorstep, emblazoned with the company’s spring-green logo. Curiosity got the best of me.

I’ve heard a lot about the lifestyle brand lately, which launched in 2011 and secured $4.8 million in first-round venture capital funding in January of this year. The program of packaged, delivered meals—made entirely from plant-based, organic, whole foods in the Sakara Life kitchen (“sakara” means “with form” in Sanskrit)—has been endorsed by Gwyneth Paltrow on her lifestyle site, GOOP; featured in magazines spanning ELLE to Shape to W to Food & Wine; and is blowing up Instagram and Snapchat with pix of colorful ingredients, including a basket of freshly picked white strawberry doppelgängers that, according to an emoji caption, taste like pineapple.

Back to a more relaxed diet following a weeks-long cleanse, I craved structure. With a media tasting of an Aspen restaurant’s new summer menu set for Friday night, I arranged to begin Sakara Life’s three-day program during Tuesday dinner (chopped salad with rice, beans, and mushroom dressing) and end after lunch on Friday (Thai veggie burger over rainbow slaw with root vegetable “fries”).

Each day includes a surprise menu of three vibrantly colored meals, plus Morning Water made with rose petals and silica; Night Water, bright green thanks to chlorella and 72 trace minerals; and detoxifying herbal tea sachets. I also ordered a canister of probiotic, raw cacao bonbons from the website’s separate menu of snacks, partly because my cupboards have been chocolate-poor for far too long but mostly because I must know what it tastes like at an eyebrow-raising $15 per ounce.

One only needs to visit Sakara Life’s website to see my motivation. The company was founded by Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise, two model-hot, blonde twenty-somethings, who admit to losing their connection to food while chasing careers in finance and acting, respectively.

Hoping to reclaim their zest for life and youthful glow in Manhattan, the Sedona, Ariz., natives began studying nutrition, seeking counsel from experts of all mind-body wellness realms (yogis and shamans included). Plant-based whole foods—hydrating, healing, and deeply satisfying—were their Holy Grail of health.

Since many educated Americans want to eat well yet feel too burned out to follow through on preparing a rainbow of whole foods now widely available, Tingle and DuBoise created Sakara Life: “Eat Clean, Eat Whole.” Meal delivery takes the guesswork out of healthful eating for those able and willing to pay for it (three days run $239; five days, at $420, cost slightly less per day). A “Live It” weekly subscription is $79/day.

On Tuesday afternoon I opened up the massive, insulated box to find meals and drinks for the next three days tucked tightly among icepacks. I arranged the plastic boxes in my fridge and sighed, my OCD tendencies stoked. No grocery shopping or dishes to clean until the weekend!

Unfortunately—and I wrote this in an email to the company after I received a “How are you enjoying the meals so far?” message on the second day—while I wholeheartedly believe in the Sakara Life philosophy of using food as medicine and I appreciate the ease of eating that the system provides, I found the food kind of…blah. (By the way, a company rep did respond to my 300-word email, apologizing for my distaste and reiterating, “Our goal is to serve only the most fresh, high-quality, nutrient-dense meals possible so that you ultimately look and feel your best!”)

Each dish is chock-full of superfoods, yes, but sometimes at the expense of flavor. Dressings were a tad sweet and everything was severely under-salted. I understand that the company probably wants to keep sodium low. However, customers who choose meal delivery services might not know how to tweak these foods into more palatable versions. I doused most meals with vinegar or lemon juice and spices, but I imagine other clients shoving the salad boxes aside en route to raiding the pantry.

Since specific meal selection is unavailable (though one may indicate food allergies when ordering), Sakara Life demands a brave consumer. I consider myself adventurous, yet despite shelling out for the three-day plan, I could not stick with it. I didn’t take more than two bites of two of the meals (looking at you, Plant Protein Granola, dusted bright-green with spirulina powder, and Friday morning’s Stone Fruit Scone, best described as a block of oat cement.) While I adore arugula, I would have enjoyed a wider variety of greens, especially when salad forms the basis of two meals per day.

The upside: I consumed a crazy variety of foods in three days and even learned a thing or two. Take Wednesday’s lunch: Gotu Kola Carrot Risotto. Say what?

“This is brain food,” the label reads. “We supercharged our carrot purée with gotu kola, a superherb popular for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for its ability to calm anxiety, improve memory, and provide mental clarity. Gotu kola’s nickname is ‘fountain of life’ because of its effects on longevity (aka more time to turn #thoughtstothings).”

The marigold-orange purée also offers a high dose of Vitamin A from beta carotene, best absorbed when carrots are cooked, “breaking down their tough cellular walls,” according to the ingredient info. The “exotic tisane dressing” boasts a blend of lavender, mint, and cayenne pepper, and it was lovely—at once calming, refreshing, and energizing. Savanna Ginger Almond Noodles, inspired by mafe, a West African peanut stew and using black beans as a gluten-free substitute in the pasta, were supremely satisfying, too.

Eating sweet potato mousse with blueberries, sliced almonds (which turned soggy in transit, alas), and bee pollen for breakfast was another novel experience, but I won’t be recreating the dish at home. Ever.

I suppose what I learned from Sakara Life was that deep-cleansing with Purium recently turned me into an even bigger food snob than I was before. Regretfully, I would have liked to know that before I spent $239 on three days of food.

Amanda Rae will celebrate Memorial Day with a charcoal-grilled cheeseburger.

Aspen Times Weekly

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